Monday, April 5, 2010

The End of America as You Know It

After well over a decade of living in an America tailored to serve the needs of the very, very rich and powerful, I for one am more than happy to be witnessing the end of America as we knew it. In that America
  • People without insurance went bankrupt and lost their homes when their children got sick.

  • Retired people skipped their life-saving medications three to six months of the year, during the quarters when Bush’s nonsensical (and unfunded) prescription plan didn’t pay at all or paid too little (the infamous “donut hole”).

  • America sanctioned and subjected people to torture.

  • America was fighting a war in Iraq that was justified by lies and conducted for private, not public, reasons. (No one ever attacked us from Iraq, and there were no “WMDs.”)

  • Nobody understood the miniscule writing on sheets of tissue paper sent to us by banks and credit card companies, but people became indentured servants because of those obscure clauses.

  • Until the end of that era (when even President Bush could no longer deny the science of climate change with a straight face), the U.S. denied any responsibility for preserving the habitability of the planet.

  • Based on the flimsy assumptions of supply side economics (i.e., no rules and no accountability for the very rich), the economy teetered and collapsed.

  • Fewer young people were aspiring to higher education because of its escalating costs.

  • Viewed as arrogant and irresponsible, America was universally despised abroad.

  • No progress was being made on making the world safer from nuclear disaster perpetrated by either rogue countries or terrorists.

  • So-called regulatory agencies—e.g., EPA, FEMA, FDA, OSHA—had long-since quit “regulating” matters pertaining to public safety and were generally headed by people who were philosophically opposed to the purpose of their own agencies.

That was America as we knew it. For once, I hope Glenn Beck is right and that this new America will live long and prosper.


Sue said...

Seems like you and I have been living in different Americas, Jane. In MY America:

Some people may have been bankrupted by medical expenses; more were helped by federal and state programs and by the charitable care provided by doctors and medical facilities.

The Medicare prescription plan was a vast improvement over the previous situation which didn't offer any prescription coverage.

Some Americans tortured, but this wasn't sanctioned by the vast majority, and at least some of those responsible were prosecuted.

Although the war in Iraq wasn't universally supported, it was based on reasonable enough information that other members of the international community also supported it.

People did not become "indentured servants" or anything like it. Those who got over their heads in credit card debt did it because of their fiscal irresponsibility -- overspending and not making even minimum payments.

"Preserving the habitability of the planet" seems like an outrageous expectation, particularly when scientists have different theories. I was reading today that the gulf stream has not changed the way the models indicated it would due to polar ice melting. We don't KNOW how the environment will respond; we can't control it.

The economy did not collapse. Segments of it became shaky; there may have been some overcorrection, but please remember that the initial bailouts by the government were by that hated Republican you like to bash.

Maybe fewer young people were aspiring to higher education because they didn't see benefits -- or maybe many young people were still pursuing higher education, which is more likely.

Universally despised abroad? Come on, you should know better than to argue absolutes. "Always" and "Never" and "Everyone" and "Nobody" are untrue because there are exceptions to any absolute.

Same argument for "no progress was being made" There might not have been a high amount of visible progress, but then again, who's to say that the responsibility was all on America and not on the rest of the world?

Regulatory agencies did -- and continue to -- oversee the actions relating to their fields. You may not have agreed with some of the approaches, but that doesn't mean they weren't doing their jobs. And FEMA is not a regulatory agency. By the way, the evisceration of the federal regulatory agencies goes bad to the Reagan era and the Democrats had plenty of opportunity to reinstate strong federal regulation but chose not to. Maybe because the regulation was out of control and needed to be reduced.

So the America you "knew" and the America I "knew" are quite different. I suspect a lot of other people "knew" other Americas, too. America is not an absolute; there are a lot of variations, some good, some not so good. What remains is that wherever people are on the political spectrum, if they are working for the good of the country as they see it they are contributing to the democratic process. That's the America we should all want to support.

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Sue,

That's a nice little list of Republican talking points you've got there. But all of this is much, much more than an exercise in semantics. It matters very much whether our government is strong or weak, large or small, and whether it works for flesh-and-blood human beings or what author Raj Patel calls "artitificial people" (including corporations, unions, and other collective entities).

It's not all about abortion--as the extreme right has successfully convinced much of the country. There are many moral issues to be resolved, and we can't do it by denial and justification of what's happened in the past. On each and every one of these issues, the two sides are not equal, and it matters very much who's right.

Sue said...

You may recall from your history studies, Jane, that there has been a difference of opinion in this country going back to the very early days as to whether the states or the federal government should be the stronger. The Constitution is to a great extent a compromise on this point. You are fond of quoting Thomas Jefferson as "the" authority on the Constitution, but he was one of many -- not all of whom agreed with him or supported a strong centralized government. The current instances of what you call "strong" versus "weak" government are merely the latest chapter in an over-200-year-old story.

I'm not a Republican, a Democrat, or a Libertarian. I do know from my own experience that there are many ways of interpreting reality and that looking at only one side of any question rarely results in the "truth." Your description of "your America" is much too one-sided for my taste,

Six said...

Holy smokes you are completely misguided on so many issues! If this is truly how you think, it is no wonder you have such an irrational hatred for all things opposed to you.

I will skip most of what she already addressed, but what puzzels me most is how you think things are so completely different... when they are more of the same.

Take for example the war in Iraq, while the campaign noise from Obama was that we would be completely out relatively soon after he takes over, the reality is that his plan exceeds the occupation plans Bush had already put in place before he left office. Additionally, Obama's expanded both wars substantially since taking over, winding them up more rather than winding them down.

On the topic of education, I am curious to see where you recieved that information. It was my understanding that our high school graduation rates and university enrollment rates had been and continue to be fairly steady for a couple of decades. In fact, the number of women enrolling is way up over the last couple of decades to the point where it is almost 60% women enrolled and only 40% men.

The only people who truly win in this awful attempt to reform Healthcare are the insurance companies. They have been assured 'too big to fail' status, and will going forward be heavily subsidized out of taxpayer money to 'keep costs down' in nothing more than a robbing Peter to pay Paul scheme.

The no-rules-for-the-rich reference is a little misleading... Obama bailed out banks, auto companies, and essentially much of wall st. Basically, he bailed out the people with the money... not you and I. His economic plans skew heavily in favor of mega-corporations...

On torture - The policy that allowed Gitmo to come to fame (opposed by Senator/Candidate Obama, but argued in favor of by President Obama) is supported by Obama. He only pledged to close specifically Gitmo, but also has said he intends to keep the others nearly identical to it open and (specifically ones located in countries without laws against torture, wonder why that is...?) and continue using rendition which he describes as, "an acceptable practice". So what is the point in closing Gitmo?

Oh and it should also be noted that Obama's own attorneys argued in court recently in favor of the Bush policies with regards to warrantless wiretapping (they both argued essentially that FISA was unconstitutional - thankfully they were proven wrong) that has proven to be illegal. Obama has adopted as his own Bush's very aggressive view of the power of the presidency. Senator/Candidate Obama openly and often criticized Bush for these expansions of power, president Obama however has stood basically in opposition to all challenges of the powers that were expanded under the Bush administration that the he and the left (rightfully) freaked out over. Of course, Obama promises not to abuse these powers (much like Bush promised) and use them only when they really, really need to. The thing that you should have learned under the Bush presidency is that one day, he will not be president... next election cycle we could very well have a 'President Palin' with all these (using my best Palin accent) super-duper hopey changey power thingies!

So while you celebrate the pigs taking over the house, I see an Animal Farm where the current and previous leaders have become indistinguishable.

Citizen Jane said...

So Six, you're saying things haven't changed enough under Obama--but you have to admit, some things are clearly better than they were. (And have you noticed how hard it is to get anything done these days with the General Opposition Party obstinately trying to obstruct anything the administration does?)

We may disagree on some things--such as whether the war in Afghanistan is or is not justified--clearly a complex issue. But I really feel that it's a cop out to just lump both parties and both presidents together and condemn them in the same breath. As I said to Sue, the two sides are not equal here.

We have debated some of these issues before, and I'm sure we'll have more to say about others. But Glenn Beck was right about one thing--it's not the same country as it was to years ago. (Hallelujah, in my opinion.)

Six said...

He did FINALLY (only recently) issue a statement that he would sometime in the future get around to ending 'Don't ask, don't tell'. Although, he has not followed through on it yet - something that could be ended with a two-sentence presidential directive that I would even be happy to draft for him that pretty much everyone with the exception of hard-core homo-phobics could concede is sensible. Off the top of my head, that's really the only meaningful thing that comes to mind. However he has yet to actually follow through on it... and given his track record of broken promises, I would not hold my breath just yet.

It is important to note that he still opposes gay marriage so it's not like he is some awesome civil rights protector.

Putting aside the insurance reform where we clearly disagree, what do you think he has actually done or accomplished that sets him apart from his Republican counterpart...?

Six said...

Great article about one of the many reasons that you force a country to embrace us and accept our system of government through the use of guns, tanks and bombers.

My favorite line, “We have shot an amazing number of people, but to my knowledge, none has ever proven to be a threat,” said Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal

Yes - that is the GENERAL McChrystal that said that...

Obama and Bush have both failed to realize these points. That country is such a backwards, uncivilized hell-hole, there is no amount of US military force that will ever successfully control that area... we are only giving more fuel to our enemies, costing brave American soldier's lives while draining our resources borrowing $0.43 on every $1 spent supporting it. Think about it... around $50 billion dollars will be borrowed from China this year specifically to fund the Afghanistan war. This is the war that Obama wants to expand... Does that make sense?

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Six,

I agree that "DADT" is, to put it as kindly as possible, antiquated and should be abolished. Many liberals wish the president would just waive his magic wand and get things done by executive order. But he's a man who has great respect for process and an apparently infinite reservoir of optimism when is comes to finding consensus. If he didn't let everyone else have a say and go through channels, it wouldn't be just the wing-nuts who are accusing him of being a despot.

War is always a tragedy. However, I agree with the need to "disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Quaida." In Afghanistan, the war isn't about "nation building," as it was in Iraq--it's about defeating enemies who came to America to kill
Americans and plan to do so again, and again, and again until their organization is destroyed.

As for accomplishments, I stand by my list. In addition, many other things in this country are beginning to move in the right direction. Improvements to the student loan program passed as part of the health reform bill are a great example. The following article describes those changes, as well as illuminating some of the objectives of the administration in terms of education and the complexities of getting things done in Washington:

Six said...

It looks like the comments cut off the last part of my link... I need to figure out how to just create a shortcut link on here. Anyway, here is the link again:

On the note of wars to get pissed off about, Wikileaks is awesome. Here is a (harsh) commentary and accompanied by the video of US Soldiers killing journalists. I think the author goes too far in calling the soldiers murderers, but I have to admit I understand his position. The most disgusting part is the refusal to abide by FOIA (even by Obama) and the fact that our current and our last president continues to put our brave soldiers in the situations to have make these sort of calls...

Six said...

err... that is '.html' at the end of the times link.

Idna said...

Incredible how people can look at the very same thing and interpret it in such different ways.

Jane, I am amazed at how you see the world. Don't even know where to begin to comment.

- Bush’s nonsensical prescription plan and the donut hole -
would you prefer NO help with buying medications? Doesn't sound like the "health care for all" brother/sisterhood that you belong to.

So TIRED of people saying "Iraq was justified by lies." Haven't you seen ALL the people, Democrats included, and many, many foreign leaders who truly believed that Sadam had WMD's? Must I post the list of quotes again?

Climate change is being seen as the hoax it is.

Economics .... and the blaming of the "rich" for everything. The top 10% of earners PAY 71% of taxes. The bottom 50% pay 3%! So who is paying for all the low income and all the deadbeats to survive? The evil Rich!

America being universally despised? Seems to me, Hamad Karsai didn't threaten to join the Taliban during Bush's administration. He just did that yesterday.

The US didn't have the kind of problems with Israel we have today til this inexperienced administration took over and messed things up with our major allies... Britain, France, Israel, etc.

And on the nuclear front .... how do you make "the world safer from nuclear disaster" by ignoring a potential nuclear state like Iran. Sticking your head into the stand and making "nice" with the Ruskies isn't going to solve a thing.

Your America? ... no thanks!

Citizen Jane said...

Hi, Idna,

Interestingly, Paul Krugman said much the same thing you did yesterday:

For both sides, it is hard to understand how the other side thinks these days--especially with so many people deriving so much capital from stirring up dissent. But I believe that as Americans, it's our moral and civic responsibility to try to understand and, when possible, find some middle ground.

I'm extremely grateful that the regular readers of this column--those who choose to comment and those who don't--can consider one another's viewpoint and disagree respectfully.

Idna said...

Oh, Jane, how could you!!? I'm almost offended at your suggestion that I agree with ANYTHING that foolish Paul Krugman has to say.

I did look at his article ... I agree with ONE thing - people disagree (DUH!)

But his characterization of the disagreements, the "close minded conservatives", etc .... give me a break!

Sue said...

"But I believe that as Americans, it's our moral and civic responsibility to try to understand and, when possible, find some middle ground."

Jane, how do you feel this posting of yours was an attempt to find middle ground?